The Mad Masters – Stefen Tcherepnin

I have been really busy over the last few weeks, so I have slipped a little in getting posts out, and I have actually really missed writing.  This said, I have been doing things to inspire new articles, therefore I don’t feel too bad skipping the odd few days.

Amsterdam, is a truly inspired city with vasts amounts of culture on every street corner (and not just the cafes and red lights as you might believe…).  There are so many wonderful galleries to visit where you can see anything from the Dutch masters to Banksy, so for someone like me, this is almost an ideal city to visit.

If you are visiting here, please go to the Stedelijk Museum.  This is a place for modern art through the ages and how it has progressed.  It is a wonderful walk through time and gives you a colourful few hours wandering around the art works.

As usual, when I have actually visited the exhibition, the photos are by me.

Tcherepnin is an American artists with musical roots, which lends itself to the inspiration for the Mad Masters exhibit.

This is Tcherepnin’s first solo museum exhibit and I can tell you it certainly packs a punch when you first see it.

Before you walk in to the room where the exhibit is, there is a sign about Tcherepnin, which is almost illegible due to the monster scrawled across it.


It gives a feel for what is about to come as you enter the room, but it really doesn’t prepare you to be met with a 6 foot monster or four.

The room is dark, with the exception of the spotlights on the monsters and a spotlight shining through a glass clown mask which is mounted to the ceiling and projects its eerie face in to one of the back corners.

The mask is actually inspired by the Coney Island Steeplechase park gate created by George C. Tilyou.


This does give an bizarre feel to the exhibit, and reinforces the performance element to the piece, as well as giving an almost sideshow feel to each of the monsters.

There are 4 monsters around the room and a video projected on to another of the walls.

The first monster is white and appears to be doing a sound check.  A fan with a piece of material tied to it, is placed in front of a guitar, and as the material drags over the strings, it forces a note out of each of them, adding to the feeling of a sound check.  When I was there, the room was very quiet with very few people around, so when it first did this, it did make me jump out of my skin as I hadn’t really appreciated that this would happen.

The next monster, is seated in an armchair watching static on a old TV.


The expression of the monster and the static fuzz on the TV giving the feeling that he is not really there.  It’s almost sad, until you realise that you are looking at a poorly made muppet.

The third seems to be walking…


The fourth is a sorry state, smacked out on sugar, and passed his expiry date…


The whole room looked like this…

img_4057Don’t you hate it when some inconsiderate person pops in to your panoramic photo and won’t leave?

What Tcherepnin has created is moments in time, captured for an eternity with his monsters. The monster’s stories pivot around the clown mask and its projection, which the museum curator talks about:-

“… as if a floating holographic amulet. Envisioned as a clairvoyant kaleidoscopic lens, the glass piece contains fragments from potential pasts and futures: hidden in the glass are the eroded borders of US territories in a hypothetical map of a post-climate change United States, superimposed with details of Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism: Self-Portrait in Two Dimensions (1915)…”

Very deep,  I have to say I didn’t notice the eroded borders or the hypothetical map, and while it is nice that they are there, if they are that well hidden that the audience can’t notice them (and I do pride myself with being fairly observant), then is there much point in having it?  Surly the point of art is to convey a message, and I don’t mind hunting a bit for that message, as most of you know, but if it is completely hidden, then it does feel like something is being missed.

On the wall I was standing at to take the panoramic photo, was the video playing of the monsters journeying through the four seasons (the yearly ones and not the hotel chain), to end up at the frozen Stedelijk.

While I am sure that there is some very heavy political message about climate change within this, because I hadn’t noticed the maps, I just thought the film was a journey for the monsters to get to the museum to take their place in history.

Despite my comments, I actually really liked this piece.  Yes the monsters look like bad muppets, no I didn’t get the political meaning, yet there is something almost comforting about the monsters as they are not scary, and they are doing things that we all do… enjoy music, fall asleep in front of the telly, travel… and indulge too much.  For me this was about moments in time and memories not being as bad as you recall. It is almost homely in its approach, especially with the house plants which have been dotted about, which do cast elongated shadows, which may have been trying to make it feel other worldly, but really just reminded me of my home, as I do love a plant.

If you are in Amsterdam, I highly recommend that you go and see this exhibit and let me know what you felt when you viewed it.  It is something quite different and I suspect everyone will feel differently about it, depending on the amount of people in the room, the mood they are in and their own personal experiences.

What do you think about the Mad Masters?  Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post?  Why not share it?



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